Bahrain expels Iran embassy official over `spy links`

Bahrain has ordered the expulsion of a top Iranian diplomat in Manama over his alleged links to a Kuwaiti spy ring, ratcheting up already simmering tension between the Gulf neighbours.

Last Updated: Apr 26, 2011, 14:47 PM IST

Dubai: Bahrain has ordered the expulsion
of a top Iranian diplomat in Manama over his alleged links to a Kuwaiti spy ring, ratcheting up already simmering tension between the Gulf neighbours.

Bahrain`s state news agency BNA reported that the Gulf
Arab state has declared the second secretary in the Iranian
embassy persona non grata and ordered him to leave within 72
hours.

It named the official as Hujatullah Rahmani and said
Iran`s charge d`affaires in Bahrain was summoned yesterday to
the foreign ministry where the decision had been conveyed to
him.

Iran said it reserves the right of a "reciprocal
reaction" to the expulsion.

"The action taken by the Bahrain foreign ministry aims
to divert attention and neglect the realities... these kinds
of baseless accusations are contrary to good neighbourly
relations... and are in line with the divisive intention of
foreigners," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was
quoted as saying on the state television`s website today.

Bahrain`s foreign ministry had yesterday affirmed its
"rejection of any interference in the internal affairs of
Bahrain and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council
(GCC)" -- comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi
Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- the BNA report said.

It also urged the Islamic republic to "end its
irresponsible actions, which constitute a grave violation of
the norms and principles governing international relations and
a threat to regional security and stability."

Earlier this month, Iranian state television said
three of Tehran`s diplomats and an embassy employee were
expelled from Kuwait for alleged links to a spy ring working
for Tehran, reportedly ever since the US invasion of Iraq.

Kuwait`s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad Sabah
al-Salem al-Sabah later charged that the diplomats had proven
links to a suspected spy ring, three members of which a
Kuwaiti court condemned to death on March 29.
The expulsions come during heightened tensions between
Gulf Arab states and their Iranian neighbour across the water.
In addition to Kuwaiti allegations of Iranian spying, Bahrain
has also accused Iran of meddling in its affairs.

The March 14 intervention of a Saudi-led Gulf force in
Bahrain, which freed up the tiny Sunni-ruled kingdom`s
security forces to crush a Shiite-led pro-democracy protest
movement, sparked a war of words between Iran and its Arab
neighbours.

Iran, predominantly a Shiite nation, said on Friday it
gives "moral support" to the demands of Bahrain`s people but
without any involvement in the protests in its Arab Gulf
neighbour.

A joint GCC-European Union statement issued in Abu
Dhabi last week said the two blocs played up "the importance
of respect for the sovereignty of GCC members" and "recognised
the GCC is entitled to take all necessary measures to protect
their citizens."

PTI